Expert advice from HORSE magazine on choosing the best four-wheel drive to tow a trailer

Q: I’ve just bought a 16hh gelding I intend to compete. I have the use ofa two-horse trailer but don’t have a 4×4 to tow it. I’ve looked at several vehicles, including the Land Rover Freelander, which is my preferred choice. However, I am concerned the Freelander will not have enough towing power to pull two horses- I may want to take a friend’s horse as well and I live in a steep, hilly area.

My budget is £15,000 and I realise I may have to buy second-hand. Can you recommend an economical 4×4 with enough power to tow two horses comfortably?

John Henderson replies: Although the 1.8 petrol and pre-2001 model year turbodiesel Freelanders are a bit short on power for heavy towing, their main failing for what you want to do is a lack of weight.

This applies to the whole ‘smallsports utility vehicle’ class of cars that includes Freelander, Subaru Forester, Suzuki Grand Vitara and new Ford Maverick.

None are heavyweights and for towing should be regarded as ordinary cars, rather than true off-roaders like Land Rover Discoveries, Mitsubishi Shoguns and Isuzu Troopers.

Freelanders have a maximum towing weight of 2,000kg which is, in theory, enough for all but the largest trailers and horses. However, maximum towing weight is based merely on a car’sability to pull away on a slope and doesn’t even suggest it will be safe to come back down again, especially with a moving live load!

An average trailer with two 16hh horses aboard weighs about 1,750kg, while even the heaviest five-door Freelander only weighs 1,626kg. So, whenever you take your friend’s horse out as well you will be coming down hills in an outfit where the bit you want behind you is heavier than the car you expect to hold it there.

Ideally, you want a towcar with an unladen weigh that is at least 85 per cent of the trailer’s laden weight. For a 1,750kg trailer you want something weighing 2,187kg. If you only tow two horses occasionally, you could use something lighter as long as you are careful and the trailer has well maintained brakes.

For your £15,000 you should be able to get a decent used off-roader, but opt for a turbodiesel because petrol off-roaders are very thirsty.

I would buy a 1999 T-reg five-door Discovery Tdi GS, Shogun 2.8TD GLX or Trooper 3.0DT Duty, which are all capable of handling a two-horse trailer.

Discovery has the best fuel consumption and cheapest insurance. The cheaper Land Rover Defender 90 Tdi stationwagon has the same engine as the Discovery and the lowest insurance rating of any off-roader.

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